Friday, February 2, 2018

Busy Times in Bakersfield (Part 2) - SP Yard Overview

Last time (Busy Times in Bakersfield - Part 1) we looked at the busy engine movements around the Bakersfield Roundhouse and engine changes on the trains.  This time we'll be looking at the switchers which worked in side the yard sorting cars and spotting them at industries in town.

The SP 6386 set cut away from No.57, the Owl, preparing to move to the engine servicing track as a VXW-4 departs via Track 22, 70, and the Sacramento St. crossover west of town.

Bakersfield Yard track plan below: Mt. Vernon Switcher in blue, Haley St. Switcher in orange, and City Switcher in purple.

City Yard, 70's Yard and main SP yard at Bakersfield during the 1950s as modeled at La Mesa Model Railroad Club.

John "Pappy" Pappasurgia, a retired switchman who hired out to the SP in 1952 at Bakersfield, during an interview in 2005 recounted the regular assignments of the tracks in the main yard as follows:
  Tracks 2-6: arriving and departing trains - yellow on the drawing above
  Track 7: Valley shorts (TMW for Roseville) - also yellow on drawing above
===
  Track 8: East Shorts (VXE for LA)
  Track 9: Cars for Mojave (This is the track for the "Mojave Shorts" cars)
  Track 10: ?
  Track 11: Cleanout track (Bakersfield supplied PFE reefers and boxcars for local loading)
  Track 12: Cleanout track (Bakersfield supplied PFE reefers and boxcars for local loading)
===
  Track 13: Cars for the Santa Fe interchange at Kern Jct.
  Track 14: Bad Orders
  Track 15: Oil City cars
  Track 16: City loads
===
  Track 17: Scale
  Ice Deck 1 & 2: - Icing of PFE and private cars, obviously.
  Track 21 was the designation used for the 'Tail' track for the shops

It's also interesting to note that between Track 7 and 8 there was a line of lockers and work tables for the carmen to make running repairs to cars in the yard, which didn't need full RIP track work in the Car Shops west of the roundhouse.

Mt. Vernon Ave. Switcher


The SP Bakersfield Yard's large 600-car main body tracks are flat switched by a crew working from the East End at Mt. Vernon Avenue.  The Mt. Vernon Switcher draws the heaviest switcher of the three main assignments at Bakersfield.

SP 1486 switching an inbound freight and the SP 6461 making a brake test on a departing 800-series eastward freight.

Mt Vernon yard chart drawing for crews to get familiar with the track arrangements

The East Lead is about 34 cars long and can handle long cuts from Tracks 2-6 which serve as the primary arrival and departure tracks in the yard.  The ATSF trains continue on the West Main to Kern Junction without stopping at Mt. Vernon Ave.

Crossing over from 6 to 7, SP 3701 and 3712 backing down onto the Mojave Shorts East train on Track 9.

Access to Ice Deck 1 & 2 is made east of the ladders to 7-12 and 13-16 off of Track 7, which can double as a separate yard lead.  There is also a crossover from Track 6 to Track 7, allowing Track 6 to work as a switching lead for Track 7-16 if needed.

SP 6461 ready to leave town with a reefer block to Colton on Track 6, the Porterville Local prepares to depart from Track 7

Heavy 4-unit sets of F-units prepare to depart Bakersfield with R-3 symbol freight (3rd Roseville reefer block of the year) around 7PM on Jan 4, 1953.  The cut-off time for reefer traffic collected around Bakersfield was 5:01PM, which was guaranteed to move out of Bakersfield before midnight, seven hours later.  This allowed for any topping off of the ice bunkers, ventilation adjustments to the hatches and fans as well as a quick final checking over by the carmen before the cars headed for Colton and points east.

SP 1486, a heavy FM switcher pulls several cars out on the main east end lead to switch.

Here the Mt. Vernon Ave. Switcher works a short string of boxcars and a tank car which will be heading to Tracy and west over the Altamont Pass to Oakland.  Notice the new "DF" 50ft boxcar in auto-parts service, one of the signature cars heading for the assembly plants around Oakland.

SP 3701 and 3712 prepare to depart with the Mojave Shorts East. The Mt Vernon engine on Trk 7 working the Porterville cars.

Above the Extra ATSF 212 West arrives at Kern Junction with a SWG-symbol freight and diverges off to the Santa Fe yard two miles to the west.

Meanwhile in the SP yard we can see a long string of reefers on Track 7 ready to head west.  This is either a "Valley Shorts" block of empty iced cars to be distributed to the sheds short of Fresno or a Porterville Local with reefers for the sheds and canneries on the branch.  The reefers on Track 6 are the R-3 cars which just arrived from Roseville.  The valley engine has cut away and the SP 6461 hasn't moved over to the train yet.

On Track 9 the Mojave Shorts train is coupled together and is preparing to depart.  Notice the covered hoppers in assigned cement service to be loaded at Monolith, beyond that are boxcars for Monolith and some PFE reefers for the apple sheds at Tehachapi.  At the headend are some GS gondolas heading for Bealville, via Caliente for the Mt. Work Train.  The cars towards the rear are general merchandise cars heading for Mojave, Searles, the high desert around Palmdale and the Owenyo Branch.

Haley St. Switcher


Bakersfield Yard's West End Switcher is called the Haley St Switcher.  The Haley St. job trims the departing eastward trains, switches cabooses, and generally works between Haley St and Baker St.

Busy times in Bakersfield with a PSS freight arriving from Fresno and heading into the yard.

Haley St Switcher yard chart

All arriving freights from Mojave and the Valley head into the SP yard for work, at least having the engines changed and helpers added for the climb to Tehachapi Pass.

SP 2718 preparing to take a TMW block to Fresno and the 5203 behind it with a block for the 20's yard with Oil City cars.

Here we see a couple of locals and a short TMW-symbol train preparing to depart westward from Tracks 10 and 11.  Another time we catch T&NO 910 freshly transferred back from Texas ready to depart westward from Track 2.

T&NO 910, an F-5 class engine, ready to depart westward with a livestock block for Fresno and Roseville.

Cutting In Helpers at Haley St.


One of the main jobs for the Haley St. Switcher is to trim and pull the rear of eastward freights apart so the helpers can be cut into the trains.

Here's a graphical diagram showing the process of cutting in helpers at Bakersfield, Page 1.  (Drawings by Jason Hill)

The process really isn't that complicated, but given that the yard shown in the diagram is over 60 feet long, sometimes it is difficult to wrap one's head around the larger scope of what's going on with the maze of switches between Haley St. and the 20's Yard.

Recombining eastward train with helpers using the 20's Yard, Page 2. (Drawings by Jason Hill)

Let's see a few photos of the 20's Yard while this process is being carried out.  Below we see that the yard crew has doubled over the train into both Tracks 23 and 24, allowing the helpers to more easily couple to each cut respectively.  The cars sitting on Track 25 are not related and were left there by the City Switcher or the Haley St. Switcher for local service.

The rear of this eastward OCM-symbol freight is pulled back into Tracks 23 & 24 ready for helpers to be added.

At 12:51AM on Jan 5th 1953, we see the rear of the OCM pulled back into Track 23 and doubled over for the second helper into Track 24.  By 1:02AM, the two AC-class helpers have pulled out of the Ready Tracks and backed down onto their cuts.  Ready A & B are stuffed with F-units in the photo below.

Helpers cut in and ready to pull forward and couple to the front of the train.

At this point, it's an easy operation to have the helpers pull their cuts forward into the departure track, couple to the headend and get the brake test before leaving town.

Caboose Shuffling?


The cabooses in the years before 'pool caboose' agreements they would lay over between trips.  One other thing the Haley St. Switcher crews need to keep track of are the local cabooses are assigned as shown below.

Cabooses being serviced at Bakersfield, notice the SP 23486 (above the 3rd caboose from the left) on the top of the Wrecker.

Showing nicely in the right side of the photo above is the caboose tracks on the south side of the main in the PI Yard.  The caboose servicing area was located there until about 1954 when the SP shifted to pooled cabooses for road jobs, at which time two new pool caboose tracks were added off the Haley St. lead between the Scale Track and the Ice Deck.

Here's a photo with three rider cars receiving servicing - the single caboose is one of the local service cars.

Often the SP cabooses are shown in photos over the 4th and 5th track south of the Main in the PI Yard.  There was also often photos of passenger coaches laying over at Bakersfield as well.  The SP regularly assigned coaches as express riders and high-speed cabooses.  Bakersfield originated high priority express traffic, so it follows that the coaches would be stationed here as well.

Express Rider Cars:


The 2800-series of coaches were modified for rider and high-speed caboose service on express trains.  The cars downgraded to the 2800-series would usually last no more than two years before being retired to SPMW service.

SP 2810, ex-SP 1806, the solo car in 60-C-1 class, the first all-steel passenger car on the SP built in 1906.

Before the SP started the special 2800-series of cars in the late 1940s, regular coaches would be used in express rider service.  The 2800-series eventually totaled 28 cars, with the last being assigned in 1954.

SP 1190, coach bringing up the rear on No.56 at Caliente.

Local Cabooses:


SP 684 - Taft Local (Sunset Rwy)

SP 789 - Porterville Local

SP 69 - Mountain Local (Based in Mojave)

Yard Service "Cabooses":


Yard service 'cabooses' didn't need to meet the Union Agreements for fittings and equipment since these cars basically were used to give the switchmen and foreman on a job a safe place to ride.  Three or four switchmen and a foreman couldn't all ride in the cab of a steam switcher along with the engineer and fireman!

SP 973 - Oil City Switcher

The SP 973 was converted to 'caboose' service for the Oil City Switcher crew in 1953.  It would appear from photos that the car was used around Bakersfield for a few years before that date in local freight service.

SP 23486 - Edison Switcher (used as needed as a riding car in the yard)

The boxcars converted from retired B-50-6 class boxcars into cabooses did not meet the Union Agreements for caboose fittings, so were not used after WWII by road crews (conductors and brakemen) and were used in yard service by foremen and switchmen for several more years.

Kern Junction - The Santa Fe


Kern Junction during a quiet time in the SP yard.

Per the 1899 Joint Line Agreement between the SP and the ATSF (Santa Fe) allows ATSF trains to operate between Kern Jct and Mojave (East Mojave after 1943).  This creates a hot spot of traffic having an interlocking plant in the middle of the SP's Division Point yard at Bakersfield to the north of the main track.

Here two 'Decks' bring a train into the SP yard past Kern Jct. - Notice the PI Main crossing the ATSF in front of the Tower.

A three track interchange yard is located between the two ATSF main tracks and the SP yard.  The P.I. main track, named for the Pacific Improvement company which built the Sunset Railway to Taft, crosses the ATSF at Kern Juction directly in front of the Tower as well using two diamonds.

ATSF 212 waits for a proceed signal from the Towerman at Kern Jct. with the SWG-4, Jan'53.

Here we see the San Joaquin Daylight, No.52, blasting out of town crossing Haley St. and past Kern Jct. Tower.

3:08PM Jan 4th, 1953, Kern Jct as No.52 departs town, Haley St engine deep on Track 4 with a freight helper on Track 3.

Action is intense east of Kern Juction with Double Track (East and West Main Tracks) allowing ATSF trains to continue west from Mt. Vernon Ave. without stopping to the Santa Fe yards west of Kern Jct., and eastward trains to head straight out of town while SP trains head into the yard.

Plenty of action at Mt. Vernon today as ATSF 170 with a BK-block blasts out of town as SP 6248 brings in the XMUG from Los Angeles.

The SP Yardmaster (foreground) and Kern Operator (sitting in front of the scissor phone) oversee the operations in the SP yard and movements at Kern Junction respectively.

ATSF 225 down a unit with a GP7 cut in behind and ATSF 3737 heading out to Bena to cut in as a rear helper.

The Kern Operator also communicates with the Dispatcher and relays information about approaching trains and information to the Dispatcher about the status of trains preparing to depart.  The phone to the Yardmaster's left is for communicating with the Cheif Dispatcher, who plans 4-6 hours ahead and plans the train tonnages, engine assignments, and crew calls before handing off the authorization of those plans to the 'Trick' Train Order Dispatcher who writes the Train Orders and issues the Clearances.

The "Tide is in" during a busy time in the ATSF Bakersfield Yard! Jan 4, 1953.

I'll cover the operations of the SP-ATSF interchange in the future when I write about the ATSF Bakersfield Yard.

City Switcher


The Bakersfield Yard's City Switcher works the various industries with general freight, company shop and store houses, and also the express and freight houses.  The east end of the yard is worked by the Mt.Vernon Ave Switcher, the west end by the Haley St. Switcher.  The packing sheds at Edison, seven miles east of the yard, and the Oil City Branch to the north of Bakersfield are also worked by the yard switcher crews as needed.  I'll discuss these other jobs in future posts.

Here we see the City Switcher working the 70's yard.  The Kern Land Warehouse has a full double spot in the foreground.

Let's look at the City Switchers territory in detail, marked in purple highlights in the drawing below.

City Yard, 70's Yard and main SP yard at Bakersfield during the 1950s as modeled at La Mesa Model Railroad Club.

The City Switcher works out of the "70's Yard", which is a sub-yard which forms the hub of the local switching operations around Bakersfield.  The main classification flat-switching yard has a track for "City" traffic which is a basic 'sluff' track for all traffic for the Oil City, Sunset Rwy (Taft Branch), P.I. Yard, Company Car Shops, Freight Houses, and local industries.

Passenger & Express Switching


The Switchers within the Bakersfield Switching Limits (Not related to Rule 93, but to Union Agreements) allow any switcher on duty to be directed to work as needed within the yard switching limits.  This can mean that one crew could be directed to do all the work in the yard if no other crews are on-duty.  Usually two crews are on-duty in the main yard during the day with extra crews put on as needed for Oil City Switcher and Edison Switcher if needed.  The regular City engine works overnight between 8:01PM and 8:01AM. 

SP 6236 in the City Yard.

Usually the opening move of the City Switcher is pulling any express cars for the VME (Overnight) returning to Los Angeles after 6PM.  If the separate City Switcher isn't on duty yet, the Haley St. Switcher will come over to preform these duties.  Often they 'Go for the Quit' early once No.447, the VMW (Overnight), arrives and they spot the express cars at the Bakersfield freight house.

During the middle of the shift the Owl (Nos. 57 & 58) pick up and set out sealed mail cars from Oakland and the Mail (Nos. 55 & 56) does the same for cars from Los Angeles.  Below we see No.57 receiving its sealed mail pickup car in the evening during the engine change.  The HO scale car models are heavier and require two GS or Mt class engines to take the Owl into the San Joaquin Valley, in real life only one was plenty for the 17 car train.

Earlier in the evening the City Switcher shuffled the pickup car for No57 out to the platform.

The City Switcher's hottest moves in the evening is working the sealed mail cars for the various night passenger trains.  Tonight's rather light, SP baggage car 6011 is coupled into the consist of No.57, the Owl, during the engine change.

Coming down to the joint with the Owl at the platform while passengers and mail are being worked.

Industrial Switching


The City Switcher's work can be divided into five areas:
- City Yard (South of main, between Bakers St. and Kern River)
- SP Freight House (West of Kern River - not in service as of Jan 2018)
- North Side (Industries along the 70's Yard, between Baker St. and Kern River)
- SP Shops (including Carpenters Shop, "Malley Shed" Car Shop, Co Storehouse, and Backshops)
- Kern Wye and PI Yard (South side of main, between Depot and the east leg of the Kern Wye)

11:49PM Jan 4, 1953 we see a string of tank cars and box cars being drilled on the west 70's ladder.

Operations in the City Yard are governed by switchlists marked up by the Yardmaster and car movements are issued on the original wheel report lists as the cars enter the railroad from staging by Clerks from the Traffic Dept.  The Clerks also preform the Freight Agent positions, update routings and assignments of empty cars at the three major yards in Bakersfield, Mojave, and the larger industrial stations at Monolith and Tehachapi.

Hard at work reading switch lists and throwing switches.

The City crew's getting started on another block of cars from the main yard.  They'll sort them by rough destinations into one of the five tracks in the 70's yard.

11:59PM John B. works the City Switcher on the night of the 4-5th of January 1953 session.

By 1:51AM the 70's yard is well in order.  The north side industries have been spotted and the switcher's working on the south side.

Looking east at 1:51AM there's large strings of boxcars in the City Yard being worked and prepared to be spotted.

By 2:02AM the City Switcher's running back up the main track to the main freight yard with the pulls for outbound sorting.

Several times a day the City Switcher returns to the main yard to drop off cars for movement out of Bakersfield, be it to the Santa Fe interchange or to SP freights.

ATSF boxcars at the Kern Land Warehouse - leased for additional ATSF freight house space.

Unfortunately one of the considerations of getting such a massive amount of prototype railroad into a limited space is that some concessions have to be made.  In the ATSF Bakersfield yard, there simply wasn't enough room for the 1400ft long freight house used to unload all the inbound merchandise and freight forwarder shipments at Bakersfield.  At the same time, as far as our records can tell, the Kern Land Warehouse was vacant for many years during the late 1940s and early 1950s.  The Kern Land Warehouse has seven doors on the south side of the SP's City Yard. 

So in a slight bending of history, we're saying that the ATSF Freight House is operating at reduced capacity because of earthquake damage from the August quake of 1952 and the ATSF is leasing the Kern Land Warehouse for their freight forwarder operations.  This change also allows more traffic through the Kern Junction interchange between the two RR's as SP's City Switcher does the work at the Kern Land Warehouse.

In the future as the industrial trackage around the SP Bakersfield and Oil Junction areas get finished the SP's Freight House operations will be moved "across the river" to the correct facilities near Oil Junction.

In Closing


SP 5301 & 5304 recouple to the KI Local at Bena for the returning Eastward trip to Mojave.

That will wrap up our Overview of the SP Yard at Bakersfield (Part2).  In future posts I'll be looking at Mojave Yard and more closely at other trains of interest on the Tehachapi Subdivision.

Jason Hill

Related Links:


Overview of 1950s Time Table & Train Order Operations on Tehachapi Pass

Busy Times in Bakersfield - (Part 1)

A Trip Over Tehachapi on SCX-BI

Modeling Mail Trains 55 & 56 - Tehachapi Mail

Modeling an MOW Supply Train (Part 1)

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